It looks like Facebook’s going to do another tweak to what we see in our news feed. These aren’t the best of times for “the social network” if you believe the New York Times article Face-Lift at Facebook, to Keep Its Users Engaged. Facebook seems to be very concerned about a recent survey that discovered 61% of their users have taken a “sabbatical,” many citing “boredom” as a reason.
Now, on top of this finding we heard a few months back that German researchers found that after spending time on Facebook many people felt lousy with envy of their “friends.”
“The researchers found that one in three people felt worse after visiting the site and more dissatisfied with their lives, while people who browsed without contributing were affected the most,” wrote Belinda Goldsmith in her Reuters article. Apparently, this finding surprised the German academics. They didn’t expect that 33% of users would have a negative experience from Facebook, “leaving them feeling lonely, frustrated or angry.”
Envy, Ennui, and Loss of Privacy – Deadly Combination for Facebook?
If you couple Facebook envy with the Facebook ennui referenced in the NY Times article, as well as the constant fear of losing one’s privacy online, it makes you wonder if Mark Zuckerberg and company have their best days at Facebook behind them.
I actually predicted the demise of Facebook 18 months ago, which, of course, left my Facebook friends in stitches. So okay, I was maybe slightly pre-mature with that prognostication, but you gotta start to wonder how a social platform can excel when a third of its users feel green after sessions, wishing they had more and better friends or vacationed in cool places like Peru or had more exotic meals.
Somehow Facebook needs to promote schadenfreude by encouraging users to post disappointments, embarrassing episodes, and failures, too. That may relieve the boredom for many. Of course, it has to have its limits too. The fastest way to get de-friended is to be a constant bitch-and-moaner on Facebook.
Anyway, I have a couple of ideas that I think can save Facebook if Mr. Zuckerberg has the good sense to implement them: 1) A truthful disclaimer and 2) a B.S. meter.
The disclaimer should appear in a pop-up window before every session a member has on Facebook. It should read as follows:
“Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life. It is like a big bulletin board where your connections can brag about all the great stuff going on in their lives: hot lovers, hot vacations, hot clothes, and even hot food. This, however, does not mean any of this hot stuff is based in reality. So either play along or don’t believe half of what you see and almost nothing of what you read posted by your friends and family members.”
The B.S. Meter
In addition to the Like, Comment, and Share buttons, Facebook needs to supply a B.S. meter – basically, a sliding bar under each post that gives you the ability to rate a friend’s post.
Move the bar up a little and it means your friend has just employed a little bit of smoke-and-mirrors to impress you and the others in his/her network. But if you think your friend has really crossed the line into hogwash, then you can and should slide that B.S. meter scale bar all the way up to the top.
I’m confident you’ll feel so much better and more engaged when you can share your skepticism with a quick mouse click regarding the items that appear in your Facebook news feed. So for the 333+ million envious and/or bored Facebookers out there, feel crappy no more. And for Mark Zuckerberg, you’re welcome.
I work for Trend Micro and the opinions expressed here are my own.